Today we were over at our park having a Christmas family portrait taken to be sent to the grandparents and uncles and aunties scattered around the world. Our sons went from cute to bored to completely weird as they coped with the interminable ordeal of being dressed relatively smartly,sitting in one spot for several moments and smiling. It was as mundane and everyday as could be – something you could see being repeated right through December in parks and backyards around the country.
Meanwhile, in another part of town my workmate, Hassan (that’s him holding the zucchini flowers from Joe’s market Garden), who is a leading hand on Fair Food’s packing line, was also spending the day with his family. Only today it was day three of being reunited with his wife, Loula, 8 year old son, Nasroudin, and 5 year old daughter, Miriam after four years apart. They have been separated since Hassan was granted asylum here in 2011 after fleeing from civil unrest in Djibouti. Hassan’s family escaped to an Egyptian refugee camp and have spent the last four years waiting for family reunion visas.
Our kids are the same age and every Monday for the past two and a half years that Hassan has worked at Fair Food we’ve said ‘Hi’ and talked about our weekends, each knowing that I’d spent mine with my family while Hassan didn’t know whether his were safe or any closer to ever coming to Australia. In a community that was publicly hostile to asylum seekers and Muslims Hassan put on a brave face and waited and waited. Outwardly you wouldn’t have known he was suffering. Though we all knew he was.
Then about 10 days ago in his very low key way, Hassan announced the Immigration Department had granted his family their visas and that they were coming. Hassan spent last week with a dreamy smile on his face. Everyday we all shouted out to him, “Hassan, how many days?” I’ve never seen a happier countdown. Loula and the kids arrived from Egypt on Friday and tomorrow Hassan and I will go to work and tell each other about our weekends with our families without sadness or fear for the first time, for the first of many times.
Now on a practical note Hassan and Loula are on the lookout for a place to rent in the Northern suburbs and some furniture to make it home – if you can help please email firstname.lastname@example.org